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Archive for the tag “new jersey”

N.J.’s alimony law gets an update after Christie signs bill

I generally practice in Pennsylvania, but I am interested in the reforms to family law in other states as they are sometimes influential to family law reforms here in Pennsylvania.

New Jersey has recently made some very interesting, and commonsensical, reforms to alimony law that could- and perhaps should – be considered in Pennsylvania.  To this end, recently nj.com published an excellent piece describing the alimony reforms in New Jersey which you can read about here.

Yestival 1998 Follow Up

I recently wrote about my experience at Yestival 1998 and shared some anecdotes and photographs from the event.  You can read my Yestival post here and all of my Yes posts here.

After I posted it, I was surprised about how little information there is about it and how few comments were made about it.  As a result, I became inspired to see if I could find any more information on it and, hopefully, glean more about what happened at it.

My search turned up the links below most of which are all from the old usenet group alt.music.yes.

The official photos linked above confirm that Geoff Downes and Peter Banks played together and Steve Howe played something as well.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any video or audio recordings from these performances.

If anyone else has any memories, photographs, videos, audio recordings, or anything else to share about Yestival 1998, please leave a comment to this post!

Yestival 1998 in Cherry Hill, NJ – Photos and Story

This post is part if my Yes series of posts, which you can see here[Author’s Note: I wrote a follow up to this post with more photographs that you can see here.]

In 1998, the day before (or maybe the morning of) the Yes show in Camden on June 27 as part of their Thirtieth Anniversary Tour, a Yestival was organized and held at a hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  A Yestival is in the same category as a Star Trek Convention, where a bunch of like-minded people (nerds?) gather and revel in their mutual obsession with something in pop culture; in the case of Yestival, it is the obsession with the prog-rock band Yes.  As with a Star Trek Convention, there are tons of merchants and others selling all manner of merchandize, including practically any product emblazoned with the Yes logo, thousands of CDs, DVDs (or, perhaps in 1998, video tapes), and, of course, T-shirts and such.  Also, as one may expect, the typical dress code for a Yestival is your favorite Yes concert T-Shirt.  In the last photograph below you will see me wearing the concert shirt from Yes’s 1997 Open Your Eyes Tour.

Of course, as with festivals of this kind, the main attraction are the celebrity guests, and Yestival 1998 was no exception.  The stars who were able to be seen (and are pictured below) included Steve Howe (Yes’ longtime guitarist), Chris Squire (Yes’ co-founder and bass player), Alan White (Yes’ longtime drummer), Billy Sherwood (Yes collaborator 1988 – 1997, 2014 and Yes member 1997 – 2000), and Geoff Downes (Yes keyboardist 1980 and 2011 – present).  In fact, I was able to get Geoff Downes to pose for a picture with me (see below)!  In 1998, Geoff Downes was just “Asia keyboardist and former Yes keyboardist from 1980;” little did I know he would rejoin Yes thirteen years later, play on two good albums (Fly From Here and Heaven and Earth) and  a forthcoming DVD, and play at five Yes concerts I would later see (not to mention two Asia shows too).  The late Peter Banks (Yes’ original guitarist) also appeared but I was unable to take a photograph of him.  Mike Tiano (Yes website creator and current moderator of Notes from the Edge) was there t00 (he is the guy with the large bushy beard and tie-dyed shirt in the photos below).

Unfortunately,  I was unable to spend all day at the festival and did not see everything that happened.  As can be seen in the photographs below, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some of the Yes guys and there was a question-and-answer-session with a few of them.  From what I understand, I may have missed an appearance by Jon Anderson (Yes’ co-founder and long time vocalist), Patrick Moraz (Yes’ keyboardist from 1974 – 1976), and an impromptu jam session with Moraz and Banks in the hotel bar.

If anyone reading this can add more details to what happened at the 1998 Yestival, please leave them in a comment to this post!

The last tid-bits that I remember from this Yestival are these two anecdotes: during the question-and-answer-session, Steve Howe was asked about Yes music on the radio (namely, wondering why Yes isn’t on the radio more often).  He responded with something like “well we don’t make music where you’ll hear ‘baby baby’ like you’ll hear on the radio.”  Also, during that same session, Howe and Squire were asked about their favorite Yes songs and Squire sarcastically responded with “Ram” (a Howe solo piece) to which Howe responded with “Fish” (a Squire solo piece).  Finally, when asked to play a little something, Sherwood said he was not particularly good at improvising, which is a comment that got him some heat on the message boards.

Needless to say, between the show and the festival, this was a weekend to remember.  Here’s hoping for more Yestivals in the future!

Here are some youtube videos from the event:

 

 

Enjoy the photographs below from the event!

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Update on March 27, 2017:

I just discovered that someone unearthed a video from the event which can be seen here:

A Judge’s Dishonorable Friends

Two New Jersey judges, Raymond Reddin and Gerald Keegan, are the subject of ethics complaints due to the company they allegedly keep.

 

Anthony Ardis, a former official Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, was indicted by a state grand jury in 2011 for alleged misconduct and various crimes such as directing staff workers to do personal work for him.  Mr. Ardis is also friends with the two aforesaid judges.

 

Judge Reddin is a childhood friend of Mr. Ardis and Judge Keegan has been his friend for some twenty-five (25) years.  The three (3) men are members of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in PatersonNew Jersey.  In addition, they founded what appears to be a healing ministry of the Cathedral called Bartimaeus Family which was inspired by the battle of cancer suffered by Monsignor Mark Giordani.  The three (3) men would have dinner and attend Mass at the Cathedral each Thursday along with as many as thirty (30) other people.

 

Despite the indictment of Ardis, the two (2) judges continued participating with Bartimaeus Family while simultaneously sitting as judges in the same Court district as indicted Mr. Ardis, and therein lays the rub when it comes to members of the judiciary.  The New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct alleged that the judges’ continued attendance at meetings of Bartimaeus Family with Mr. Ardis created an appearance of impropriety and had concerns that the integrity of the judiciary would, therefore, be compromised.  Canon 1 of the Code of Judicial Conflict, which requires judges to maintain high standards of conduct, as well as Canon 2A, which requires judges not to take an action which compromises the confidence and integrity in the judiciary, and Canon 5A(2), which requires a judge’s extrajudicial activities not demean the judicial office, were all citied to justify the ethics complaints about the judges.

 

This matter is still developing as the criminal case against Mr. Ardis is still ongoing and the judges will presumably respond to the allegations made against them.  Of course, there is denial of impropriety all around and, in fact, Judge Reddin has been a highly rated jurist in the past.

 

This situation illustrates the predicament in which judges often find themselves.  In order to remain compliant with the expectations to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, it would seem that judges must choose between their position and things that are potentially innocent and innocuous like maintaining contact with a lifelong friend or attending a church or community group which may happen to also have someone of questionable repute among its membership.  Does a judge have to give up friendships?  Does the judge endorse his friend’s or the other member’s conduct?  Indeed, does he even know the member or about his conduct?  Perhaps not, but situations such as the one described above make it clear that a judge must remain ever vigilant, perhaps even to the point of avoiding public contact with certain people, in order to ensure full compliance with the expectations upon them and their office, including the codes of conduct applicable to their jurisdictions.

Mens Rea Applies Despite Practice of Religious Norms

In 2010, the Superior Court of New Jersey heard the matter of S.D. v. M.J.R., 2 A.3d. 412, 415 N.J.Super. 417. The Hudson County case involves the marriage of Plaintiff S.D. (“Plaintiff”) and Defendant M.J.R. (“Defendant”) and the domestic abuse that Defendant inflicted upon Plaintiff per his rights and privileges within the Islamic faith. Both the trial court and Superior Court in this matter analyzed the relationship between the legal concept of mens rea and Defendant’s state of mind when acting within the scope of his religion.

Plaintiff and Defendant are both Muslims from Morocco. Their marriage was arranged by their respective families in 2008 when Plaintiff was 17 years old. On July 31, 2008, Plaintiff and Defendant were married. After three months of marriage, Defendant asserted “his rights” as a Muslim husband in four separate incidents.

The first incident occurred when Plaintiff was unable to sufficiently cook a meal for Defendant’s friends. Once Defendant’s friends left, Defendant proceeded to inflict a punishment upon Plaintiff for her failure to cook what he believed was an adequate breakfast by pinching her on every part of her body for over an hour. His “punishment” left several bruises which were documented by the local prosecutor’s office weeks later. Defendant indicated to Plaintiff that the violence he was inflicting was to “correct” her behavior.

The second incident occurred when Defendant, knowing Plaintiff was not a skilled cook, asked her to prepare a dinner for friends. Plaintiff informed Defendant that she could not cook the meal he requested to his satisfaction. He then asked his mother to cook the meal instead (Defendant’s mother had moved in with them shortly after they were married). Plaintiff and her mother-in-law had an unpleasant exchange. When Defendant learned of this exchange, he proceeded to again inflict a punishment upon Plaintiff. This time he stripped Plaintiff of her clothes, and pinched her breasts and her vaginal area. Plaintiff tried to flee but Defendant locked the door so she could not escape. Defendant explained to her that she was his wife and she must do whatever he told her. After his punishment, Defendant then forcibly had sex with Plaintiff. This episode lasted several hours.

About a week later the third incident occurred after Plaintiff got into an argument with her mother-in-law. The argument got so heated that Plaintiff locked herself in her bedroom. Defendant removed the latch from the bedroom door, entered the bedroom, and proceeded to engage Plaintiff in nonconsensual sex. Subsequently, after some unrest, Plaintiff attempted to leave the apartment, but Defendant refused to allow her to leave and instead, pulled her back in and physically assaulted her by repeatedly slapping her in the face causing her lip to swell and bleed. Defendant then left the room which allowed Plaintiff time to escape the house through a window. Once outside, Plaintiff encountered a woman who noticed her injuries and called the police. The police took her to the hospital and documented her injuries. A police investigation also established that her bed sheets and pillow cases were stained with what appeared to be blood.

Subsequent to the above three incidents, Plaintiff moved out of the marital home. During this time it was discovered Plaintiff was pregnant with Defendant’s baby. In order to try and reach a remedy to their marital issues the Plaintiff, Defendant, and their Imam had a meeting. At the meeting, Plaintiff and Defendant reconciled on the following conditions: that Defendant would cease mistreating Plaintiff, that they both move back to Morocco, and that they live separate from Defendant’s mother.
On the night of their reconciliation, in January 2009, Defendant again engaged in nonconsensual sex with Plaintiff three times. Defendant continued to do so on subsequent days. During this period, Plaintiff was deprived of food and a telephone.

Defendant explained to her that according to Islamic faith, he can do anything he pleases to his wife and she should submit to him. Defendant eventually became dissatisfied with Plaintiff and performed an Islamic divorce in the presence of the above-mentioned Imam.

Ultimately, a complaint was filed in Superior Court and Plaintiff attempted to secure a restraining order against Defendant. While these domestic matters were proceeding, a parallel criminal matter was also pending. During the litigation of the above matters, the Imam confirmed that according to Islamic law “a wife must comply with her husband’s sexual demandsÉ The Imam did not definitively answer whether under Islamic law, a husband must stop his advances if his wife said Ôno.’”

The Judge in the restraining order matter found that Plaintiff had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant engaged in harassment and assault. He further found that Plaintiff had not proven criminal restraint, sexual assault, or criminal sexual contact. To that end, the Judge specifically stated that:

This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.

Therefore, in the Judge’s view, Defendant did not act with criminal intent. Finally, despite having found acts of domestic violence, the Judge found that issuing a final restraining order was unnecessary as the incidents described above were merely a “bad patch” in their marriage (despite the fact that the incidents occurred only three months into their marriage, and that they never actually ended), Plaintiff’s injuries were not severe, the parties had intentions to divorce and cease living with one another, at least one of them intended to move back to Morocco, and, he assumed, the parallel criminal matter would resolve the outstanding issues. Plaintiff appealed the ruling.

On appeal, the court first looked at the purpose and intent of the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. At the outset, the court found that the legislature elected to pass the Act, even though criminal statutes could also apply, because of the special and unique nature of domestic violence. Further, the court noted that sexual assault can occur when one engages in sex without the consent of one’s spouse. Most importantly, the court noted that neither the sexual assault statute nor the criminal sexual contact statute, applicable to the instant matter, specified what mental state must be demonstrated for an alleged perpetrator of sexual assault and/or criminal sexual contact. The court then clarified that when a state of mind is not specified, it defaults to “knowingly.” In essence, as the court observed, “criminal intent is generally an element of crime, but every man is presumed to intend the necessary and legitimate consequences of what he knowingly does.” (Quoting Reynolds v. United States, 98 US 145 (1878).)

The court then proceeded to provide a brief historical review of situations where religious norms conflicted with the law. Specifically, the court highlighted the Mormon practice of polygamy, the Seventh Day Adventist practice of avoiding work on a Saturday, and the American Indian practice of sacramental ingestion of peyote. In the final analysis, the court affirmed the long-established law as set forth by many decades of United States Supreme Court precedent: “valid, generally applicable, and neutral laws may be applied to religious exercise even in the absence of a compelling governmental interest,” quoting Employment Div., Dep’t of Human Res. of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990). The court further determined that “[t]he only decisions in which we have held that the First Amendment bars application of a neutral, generally applicable law to religiously motivated action have involved not the Free Exercise Clause alone, but the Free Exercise Clause in conjunction with other constitutional protections.” (Quoting Smith above.) The court decided that the Smith case appears to control as the laws defining the crime of sexual assault and criminal sexual conduct are neutral laws of general application.

Acknowledging that the legislature recognizes the serious nature of domestic violence, and that Defendant violated neutral laws of general application when he physically and sexually assaulted Plaintiff, the court decided that there was a basis for a finding of domestic violence in the instant matter. The court further acknowledged that the trial judge in the matter also correctly found that Defendant had assaulted and harassed Plaintiff in violation of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.

The appellate court rejected the trial judge’s conclusion that Defendant’s intention to act within the norms and expectation of his Islamic faith somehow resulted in Defendant having no mens rea to commit a crime and/or violate the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. From a practical point of view, the court was greatly distressed by what it believed to be an “unnecessarily dismissive view” of domestic violence on the part of the trial judge. Further, the court was concerned that the trial judge believed Muslim norms were not actionable, simply assumed the criminal court judge would take a certain action without following up to ensure that he did, presumed that the parties’ separation and/or divorce would resolve the abuse, and failed to sufficiently consider the impact the imminent birth of the couple’s child would have on the situation. Based upon all of the above, the court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for entry of such an order.

In the final analysis, the matter of S.D. v. M.J.R., 2 A.3d. 412, 415 N.J.Super. 417 presents attorneys, judges, and, of course, litigants, with the fact that practicing the religious norms of one’s faith cannot undercut the mens rea requirement of a criminal and/or domestic abuse statute. Knowingly committing an act of abuse, as defined by a neutral and generally applicable statute, is enough to hold one liable or guilty of the act regardless of what his religious imperatives are.

This article also appeared in the Philadelphia Bar Association’s “Upon Further Review” on April 13, 2011 and can be found here and on my website here.

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